Cancer Council Australia

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Gene patent laws must change to protect Australian healthcare consumers

The Federal Court’s dismissal of an appeal against the patenting of genetic mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer highlights why patent law in Australia needs to change, Cancer Council Australia said today.

Director of Advocacy, Paul Grogan, said that given the unanimous Federal Court ruling is an interpretation of Australian law, the law itself needs to change to protect healthcare consumers from gene monopolies.

“Australian women were only protected from an attempted commercial monopoly over the BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests in 2008 because the company that threatened to take those tests away from public laboratories withdrew its patent claims voluntarily,” Mr Grogan said.

“There was nothing in the law to protect healthcare consumers from the monopolisation of those diagnostic tests – and there still isn’t.

“The ruling puts Australia out of step with the US, where the Supreme Court invalidated the Myriad patents.

“If the difference is in the way Australian patent law is interpreted, then there is a strong case to change the law.

“The patents system should reward innovation and help deliver affordable healthcare, not stymie research and increase costs by allowing commercial entities to control the use of human genetic materials.”

Media contact:

Hollie Jenkins
02 8063 4153 or
0400 762 010

This page was last updated on: Friday, September 5, 2014